Newswire » Local History » Famous Dublin Street Characters Part 1 – Bang Bang

Famous Dublin Street Characters Part 1 – Bang Bang

Thomas Dudley aka Bang BangThomas Dudley was born here in our wonderful city of Dublin in the year of 1906, to his parents, John and Mary Dudley they had already had a sister daughter Ann. John, by trade was a chimney sweeper and Thomas was born into a Dublin that was slummed with Tenement housing and poverty knocked on nearly everyone’s front door.

When Thomas was young for reasons unknown, he was placed into care. Thomas grew up in an orphanage in Cabra. He stayed there till he was old enough to leave. He lived on the streets for a number of years before he was given a flat on Bridgefoot Street. The one little luxury poor Thomas afforded himself was going to the cinema and watching Cowboy & Indians films. The cinema was a very big thing whit some people growing up in Dublin, as televisions didn’t start to make their entries to Irish homes till the late 60’s, or early 70’s. The cinema was a must and in some cases people had to book to get in on a Sunday. It is believed his favourite actor was John Wayne. Once he had seen the movie Thomas would then go and re-enact the film out on the streets pointing his famous key at people as a gun and shouting “Bang, Bang your dead!”. And so it was that he became known affectionately as “Bang Bang”.

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Famous Dublin Street Characters Part 3 – Arthur Fields, The Man On The Bridge
Famous Dublin Street Characters Part 2 – The Diceman

Bang Bang’s choice of a weapon was an old key, it was about 4 inches in length no one knew where he got it. He was always running around the streets of Dublin to shoot anyone with his key. Often fellow Dubliners would act it out with him and pretend to be dying after Bang Bang shot them. His favourite port of calls was the buses and trams. Now the old buses used to have the old stairway at the back that didn’t have any doors, this was the area where the bus conductor used to stand and take the fares. Bang Bang used to hop on the buses and go from stop to stop shooting his key at the bus passengers again a lot of them would play along with the fun. If the people didn’t play it was said Bang Bang used to say to them “you’re dead I just shot you, now if you don’t die I won’t play”, the passer by seeing their error would duly fall dead on the spot.

Children on the streets used to shout at Bang Bang in a fun way, he would then take out his key and shout Bang Bang all the children used to love the shooting games. It was reported once when Bang Bang jumped on to a bus he fell to the ground, when people went to his aid he replied “I am ok, take the stage to Medicine Bow”, this happened to be one of the names of a town in a Cowboy film.

Bus conductors knew who he was and they let him on the buses to entertain the passengers. Old fashioned gentleman with their bowler hats and umbrellas would also take part in Bang Bang’s street performances. They would pretend they had a Winchester rifle with their umbrellas and they would shoot back at him some went as far as playing dead. When people suddenly came face to face with Bang Bang, he would more than likely run up to them for a surprise attack.

Bang Bang became a favourite with Dublin and her people and if there were any foreigners in town epically Americans they loved it when Bang Bang shot them. It was once stated that one of his shootouts lasted for 1 hour when the Americans acted it out with him and shot back. When John Wayne died it was understood that Bang, Bang went around and told people that his old friend had died. Sometimes when he was watching a film and the Cowboys were under heavy attack he would stand up in the Cinema and began to shoot at the bad guys at the screen. To the delight of the cinema goers and owners, he was never put out of a cinema…well he may have been warned once or twice after some of his more colourful performances.

Bang Bang was and still is today one of Dublin’s favourite street performers. Sadly, at the end of the 70’s people used to take advantage of his flat. This was a time when Dublin was hit with its first big drug epidemic, some people used his flat for hiding stolen gear, or used it for shooting up. These people used to buy Bang Bang a bottle or two of stout and he knew no better, and it was at this period he was also beginning to have problems with his sight. Eventually, it was decided that he had to go into a home because the situation was more than he could handle. He was moved to the Rosminian Fathers in Drumcondra, where he died peacefully in 1981.

Related Stories:
Famous Dublin Street Characters Part 3 – Arthur Fields, The Man On The Bridge
Famous Dublin Street Characters Part 2 – The Diceman

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6 Responses

  1. Tangee Breder says:

    I loved the story of Bang Bang

  2. anne wall says:

    I loved the story of Bang Bang, my mom has told us of his antics and other characters in and around Dublin

  3. john buddy says:

    I knew bang bang as a small boy and shot him Meany a time great fun lots of memearys

  4. Tony Gorman says:

    Alias Bang Bang (Thomas Dudley) a true Dublin character 17th March 2014

    In 1906 a new babe was born
    Into troublesome days his life was forlorn
    He was born into poverty, suppressed by his life
    Overladen by nothing but trouble and strife

    At an early age with his young days ahead
    There’d be no family life just an orphanage instead
    And the days rolled on for this unfortunate soul
    And they followed his path until he grew old

    And onto the streets as an adult he went
    His faith in this world was far gone and spent
    So into the Mero to his dream world he’d go
    To visit his heroes on the films they’d show

    And it brought him some comfort from what he had seen
    Imitating those cowboys that he had seen on the screen
    So he got a long key that he used as his gun
    And he slapped his backside to keep his horse on the run

    And his mind took him back to the old western days
    And he shot up all Dublin with his bang banging ways
    And in time he became well known to us all
    And at times when he shot us we pretended to fall

    And for years we enjoyed his enigmatic ways
    As he shouted out bang bang, back in those days
    And the folklore he transmitted, is with us all still
    Even though he’s not buried where he dreamed on Boothill

    by/Tony Gorman

  5. mary toole says:

    Really lovely poem in honor of Thomas Dudley, my granny knew him well and she would feed him thanks for the poem my granny had fond memories of the poor unfortunate man and a shame to Dublin Authorities who failed many a poor man like THOMAS DUDLEY

  6. ann hackett says:

    My uncle was known as bang bang. His name was George Pallas .he lived at Markovich house. We visited Dublin and local people told us. He was known as bang bang which we were not aware off.

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